Churches Are Not Christian Cruise Ships

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Is it possible that your church isn’t a perfect fit for everyone?

Everyone is welcome, but maybe another church might meet their unique and individual needs better. That’s not a thought that is easily embraced.

Can you say “no” to someone even if it potentially results in them leaving your church?

Learning to balance the natural tension of loving and caring for people, but not allowing someone to leverage their personal agenda or hijack the vision of your church is part of the leader’s responsibility.

This is a tough issue and requires artful leadership. As shepherds we hate to have even one person leave, but sometimes it’s OK, and maybe it’s best for that person.

The church was never designed to be a Christian cruise ship. I’ve been on a couple cruises and loved them. They are a ton of fun! The great cruise lines exist to please the customers anyway they can, to create a great memory in the context of an enjoyable and safe vacation.

The church was not designed to please everyone.

Any one approach to preaching or style of worship can’t make everyone happy. It’s not possible. Your approach to student ministry won’t connect with every parent. Hey, your choice of coffee can make some people unhappy.

In fact, the church was never designed to answer all of life’s questions, it was ordained to answer the one question about eternal life. Yes, through scripture the church brings wisdom to our lives, but it points to a relationship with Jesus.

If your church did everything your attendees want, it would no longer be the church they love.

Why?

If your church did everything your attendees want, it would no longer be the church they love. Click & Tweet!

If you attempt to accommodate every voice along with their idea and plan for the church, you will have lost your God-intended identity and vision, and therefore, also the divine thumbprint He has placed upon you.

The church does not exist to deliver all the programming the congregation can dream up. If we did everything we’ve been asked to do, we’d have dozens of programs from sports leagues to classes in CPR.

Many of these things are good and helpful, but you can’t say yes to them all.

You can’t preach every sermon your congregation thinks you should preach.

Sometimes you need to say no.

Kindly. Respectfully, with a thoughtful explanation. But still no.

Again, many are good and worthy ideas, but the church not only shouldn’t do all of them, but it also can’t. No one church can do everything. That is simply impossible. So what each church does must be carefully, strategically and prayerfully thought through.

Many of the things that your congregation requests already exist somewhere in your community. Encourage them to engage the community, and take Jesus with them!

3 Principles to Help You Navigate These Sensitive Matters:

1) Love everyone, but surrender your values to no one.

Jesus served everyone the Father directed Him to serve. We are to do no less. But the Father never directed Jesus to serve everyone while He was here on earth.

Everyone is welcomed. We are to treat all who we meet with love and grace, but one church can’t meet every need.

Jesus never let anyone derail Him from His purpose.

One of the stories that illustrates this is in John chapter 11. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus was sick and dying. They pleaded with Jesus to come and heal him, but Jesus stayed where He was for two more days. I’m certain they didn’t understand in the moment. They were no doubt disappointed and probably upset. Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, but He remained on His purpose.

The tension arises from the fact that people are the purpose of the church.

But Jesus never demonstrated or communicated that His Kingdom purpose for the local church was to be surrendered to any single individual’s desires. Keep the larger mission in mind. Do you feel the tension? Every person matters, right? But if you remain true to your mission, you will reach and serve more people.

Jesus never let anyone derail Him from His purpose. Click & Tweet!

2) Know what God has called you to do and don’t back down.

Your church can’t do everything, so do what you do well. Keep your list of ministries lean. Stick to the main thing – stick to what God has called you to do.

Be strategic. Use resources wisely. Listen carefully to the prompts of the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced that God won’t give you more to do than you have time to do it. So, if you have too much to do, maybe you are doing something God doesn’t need you to do. 

Pray till you know what God wants. God is not the author of confusion and division.

If there is disagreement among the leaders, keep praying and practice mutual voluntary submission. When you agree and are aligned in God’s purpose and plan for ministry, be bold. Don’t back down.

I love the story in the book of Nehemiah when Sanballat and Geshem sent Nehemiah a message trying to get him to meet with them. Nehemiah responded that he was carrying on a great project and could not meet! He asked, “Why should the work stop and I go down to you?” They pressured him for a meeting four times, and each time Nehemiah did not back down. He would not be hijacked by someone else’s agenda. (Nehemiah 6:1-4)

3) Get comfortable with the idea that the Kingdom of God is bigger than your church.

I used to take it personally when anyone left the church I love and serve. It still gets to me at times, but I’ve come to realize that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than my church.

The message of Jesus Christ is for everyone, but your church isn’t everyone’s preference, and that’s OK. Your doors are open to everyone, of course. All are welcome, but one church can’t meet the vast and varied array of needs within the body of Christ.

It’s natural to be disappointed if someone who has been with you for a long time leaves your church or if someone visits your church for a while and doesn’t stay. Don’t take it personally.

In the same way that you on occasion must say no to someone, they also can say no to you.

If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up with a much smaller congregation than you will if you know who you are, know what you are called to do, and do that well.

You can love and serve anyone, but you can’t please everyone. If a family leaves your church, love them well on the way out and let them know they are always welcome to return.

People want confident leadership in a church that knows where it’s headed. Even if they don’t entirely agree with you.

If you’re like me, you want to meet every need you can. And you’d like to accommodate requests. But there are times you need to say no to some requests, preferences, and demands. As a result, a few people may leave, but hold true to the vision God has put before you, and stay steady on the course.

People want confident leadership in a church that knows where it’s headed. Even if they don’t entirely agree with you. Click & Tweet!

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